Pizza makes me happy in the way good wine and paid time off makes me happy. Yes, it ranks right up there. A few months ago the New York Times One-Page Magazine put pizza on it’s “Meh List.” Not Hot, Not Not–just “meh.”
I disagree. Maybe because it doesn’t figure into my daily diet as much as I wish it would, pizza generally elicits much more than a mere “meh” from me. Even bad pizza (especially bad pizza) elicits strong feelings. I appreciate the myriad interpretations, incarnations and sheer spectrum of it, from kiddie food staple to gourmet flatbread wine bar nibble. I love its accessibility, strong regionality (Chicago or New York? I’ll take a slice of each please), and its long, slightly hazy history. Someday, I swear to you, I will taste-test every margherita pizza in Napoli.
I’ve been meaning to write about Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana because it’s as close as I’ve come to an authentic Neopolitan pizza so far. Good pizza in Phoenix? Surprisingly, yes. A decade ago, Ed Levine of the New York Times wrote that Chris Bianco’s rustic, wood-fired pies at Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix “just might be the best pizza in America.” That shocked (and possibly upset) East Coasters, but it was a boon to those of us west of the Mississippi who appreciate the simplicity of well-balanced, traditional flavors coming together in one perfect pie.
But back to Pomo Pizzeria. I was intrigued by the fact that the pizza here is certified by the APN (Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani) and VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana), organizations that confer the status to pizza-makers who carefully adhere to the methods and traditions of traditional Neapolitan pizza-making. The dough consists of four ingredients: imported organic wheat flour, natural yeast, Mediterranean sea salt and water. It’s allowed to rise for at least 24 hours, then kneaded by hand so it is no more than three millimeters thick.
San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, imported buffalo mozzarella and other traditional ingredients are used to top the pies. Then a swift 90-second cook at 905 degrees Fahrenheit in a 6300-pound wood-burning oven built in Napoli.
The process is beautiful in its simplicity, careful preparation and long tradition. The results are thin crust pizza with a lovely balance of flavors. Even now, I can remember the melding of flavors, touches of olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil mingling and setting off tiny points of pleasure. I admit: I had to stifle a few moans in public. Simple is good, friends.
[Photos: Bottom four photos, Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana]
Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana
705 North First Street